What is a Young Carer?
Young carers are children and young people aged between 5 – 18 years old whose lives are in some way different or restricted because they provide, or intend to provide, practical or emotional support to someone else. The person they provide care for is often a parent, or a relative who is physically or mentally ill, frail elderly, disabled or misuses alcohol or substances. Young carers could also be supporting and caring for a disabled brother or sister.
Being a young carer can mean that sometimes it can be difficult managing all the things they feel they have to do and all the things they would like to do. This can affect young people in different ways. Sometimes a young carer may struggle to keep up with their school work, or not feel able to join in after school activities alongside their peers. They can feel tired and sometimes stressed and worried about the person they care for, as they fear that something might happen to them when they are not close by to keep an eye on them or directly caring for them. It is not surprising that they can get distracted and this makes it all the more difficult to concentrate on school work and homework. Also, young carers may forget to look after themselves or feel that they are not being properly looked after, such as not having a balanced diet, not eating regularly or sleeping properly or getting enough exercise.
It can also seem like others do not really understand what it is like to be a young carer, especially to school friends, and this can make a young carer feel vulnerable and unhappy. Young carers may also be the victims of bullying and siblings report that they are sometimes embarrassed by their brother or sister’s behaviour in public, mostly because of the way other people reacted.
Young Adult Carers
Young Adult Carers aged 16 – 25 undertake more tasks in a family household than would usually be expected by a young person of their age. Tasks might include managing household bills, carrying out the weekly shop, providing emotional support, administering medication, helping someone with personal care including washing and dressing, or managing the disruptive behaviour of an adult or child in the family. A young adult carers might be caring for a parent or may help to look after a brother or sister. Some young adult carers care for more than one person in their family; for example they may provide care to a sibling with a disability and also a parent with a mental health issue.
Providing care can become very difficult and can impact on a young person’s own time when they would rather be going out with friends, playing sport or studying. It can mean that making friends and maintaining relationships can be difficult as they have responsibilities that put demands on their time and emotional resources.
It can however feel really special being a young carer and often they feel very proud of what they do and are happy to spend time with the people they love. The important thing is to make sure that the balance is right and that young carers are not expected to take on inappropriate caring tasks.
There are lots of places where young carers can go for support.
There is lots of help out there for young carers both locally and nationally see the Useful Information pages.
Who are Siblings?
Siblings are young people who have a brother or sister with a disability. Sometimes siblings feel a bit left out because often their parents have to give more attention to the needs of their disabled brother or sister. It can also seem like there are two sets of rules in the same household and it can mean that siblings feel a bit hard done by or that they are treated differently.
This is why we have developed a programme of activities just for siblings/young carers .
These activities will give siblings the opportunity to get together with other young people in similar family circumstances and provide them with the opportunity to share experiences which will help to support them with their feelings. Most importantly it will help them to realise that they are not alone, that their needs are not being overlooked and they can have a bit of “me” time!
For further information about siblings see Siblings – Information for Families published by Contact a Family